A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
According to the government, all public events until September 1st have been cancelled – I assume this goes for the Introduction weeks too. HOP week and First Years Weekend (FYW) were highlights for many of my fellow students. The latter was only for IS students but the former for all students studying in The Hague, they were events that marked the beginning of our university experience. When we heard that, due to the Coronavirus, they would be going ahead in their usual way, my friends and I couldn’t help but feel a little dismayed. Not for ourselves, even though so many of us had loved mentoring, but for the incoming first years. But as we mulled over it we realised that although they were fun, I wasn’t so sure if they were the way most of my friendships formed (and there has been a lot of debate about this). Don’t get me wrong they were so much fun, and they definitely helped introduce me to people, get to know a couple of familiar faces but it wasn’t the only way I’d made friends.
I feel like I couldn´t have made friends if I never put myself out there. I know it’s anxiety-inducing to start in a whole new place, where you know no one and on top of all that it’s a new country. But that’s also a reason why putting yourself out there can’t go wrong. EVERYONE is in the same position as you, even the Dutch students won’t really know anyone. So, everyone is just as eager to accept or give an invitation. Why not be the one to suggest coffee or having lunch together or studying together? Maybe throw a party and invite them – we went as far as throwing a ridiculously early surprise party for someone we’d just met.
Even if you don’t end up throwing random parties there are lots of uni events instead where you can meet people. I feel like I tried a lot of things that first semester that I wouldn’t have been interested in if already knew people. Study associations often have parties and other events that are geared to bring their members together. Everyone else is either there because they genuinely like what’s going on or they’re there because they want to meet people and both are good starting positions. Try something new, even if you don’t make instant connections you might have found something that you enjoy instead.
Speaking of enjoying things, remember that everyone on your degree at least overlaps on one interest – the thing you study! Workgroups are also a great opportunity to meet people mandatory time together makes some sort of bonds at the very least! From some of my first workgroups, I met at least a couple of people that I really bonded with. When we moved to our area specialisations, I know plenty of people who formed some of their strong friendships. Friendships at uni are one that you have to cultivate over time because there are no longer that many shared classes so take the opportunity to strengthen the connection you may have found with someone.
I know that in the grand scheme of things worrying about if the first week of parties is going ahead or not seems trivial but it’s ok to miss all of the things that will no longer happen. I think there was a lot of luck, alcohol, random chances and vulnerability involved in making friends outside of HOP Week. I know so many people who never went to either and have made really strong friendships.
The organisers are currently working to find an alternative. To find out more go to: http://www.hopweek.org/en/en/homepage/